What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

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When your child visits a pediatric cardiologist you’ll likely hear a lot of medical terms for the first time. Coping with so much new information can be overwhelming. We often use this blog to explain common practices of a children’s heart doctor.

cardiac catheterization

Many of our patients will undergo cardiac catheterization or catheter intervention. If your child needs one of these procedures, the following information will help you understand what’s involved.

What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

Doctors study and repair the heart using cardiac catheterization. A thin hollow tube, also known as a catheter, is inserted into an artery. The tube is flexible and small enough to be guided through the artery of a leg, arm or neck.

The cardiologist guides the catheter to the heart. Using an X-ray visualization called fluoroscopy, the doctor can see the progress of the catheter as it travels through the artery.

A pediatric cardiologist may use a catheter in tests that assess the health of your child’s heart. Catheters are also used to make minimally invasive repairs, procedures that don’t require open surgery.

Dye may be injected into the heart through the catheter. The dye helps doctors see the structure of the heart. This procedure is called an angiogram. An angiogram is a moving image that assists in diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart disease.

When Do Pediatric Cardiologist Use Catheterization?

Doctors use cardiac catheterization for various purposes. The procedure is often used to better understand the nature of a child’s heart defect. With catheterization, a cardiologist can see the structure of the heart and determine if surgery or another type of treatment is needed.

A doctor may determine that a non-surgical procedure called a catheter intervention can be used to treat a heart condition.

What Is a Catheter Intervention?

A catheter intervention is a phrase that may refer to any of several types of procedures. These procedures, performed during a catheterization, can delay, repair or take the place of surgery. Here are some types of catheter interventions:

  • Balloonvalvuloplasty: This procedure is used to repair a blocked heart valve. A balloon at the end of a catheter is guided to the valve. The balloon is inflated to open the valve.
  • Balloonangioplasty: Narrowed blood vessels may be enlarged by a balloon on the end of a catheter. The balloon is positioned and inflated at the narrowing. As the balloon inflates, it makes a tear in the tissue, enlarging the vessel for better blood flow.
  • Stent: A stent is a tube used to expand a narrowed blood vessel. The stent is placed with a catheter. The stent is expanded with a balloon, opening the vessel and improving blood flow.

Pediatric cardiologists may also perform a number of other types of catheter interventions.

Portland Pediatric Cardiology

Our pediatric cardiologists are based at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Randall Children’s Hospital. The pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons at Legacy work with us to treat congenital heart disease. We have several locations around Oregon and Washington. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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